November 3, 2017

O’Neill Institute’s Tenth Anniversary: Celebrating Impact and New WHO Partnership

As part of its tenth anniversary celebration, the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law hosted a panel discussion to celebrate its designation as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law.

On October 26, students, faculty, and members of the public attended a panel discussion titled, "The Greatest Health Challenges Facing The 21st Century: Security, Chronic Illness, and Equitable Access to Care."

Panelists included Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health; Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, former coordinator for threat reduction programs in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; and Dr. Rüdiger Krech, director of Health Systems Innovation to the Office of the Assistant Director General of WHO. The discussion was moderated by Lawrence O. Gostin, university professor and faculty director of the O’Neill Institute.

TENTH YEAR CELEBRATION

In October 2006, Georgetown University alumni Linda (NHS’77) and Timothy O’Neill (L’77) donated $10 million to establish the Linda and Timothy O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at the Georgetown Law Center. 

Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the O’Neill Institute has become a premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its research program is organized around seven thematic categories that span multiple areas, including food and drug law, global health governance, healthcare, health and human rights, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, and trade, investment, and health. 

The institute administers the only master’s degree in global health law program in the world. Launched in fall 2007, the Global Health Law LL.M. Program has an annual cohort of approximately 20 students from across the globe. Graduates have gone on to professional careers in a variety of health law and policy arenas, including academic institutions, the U.S. government, WHO, and the private sector.

WHO PARTNERSHIP

As a WHO Collaborating Center, the O’Neill Institute will work with WHO, as well as regional offices like the Pan American Health Organization, Regional Office for the Western Pacific, and Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, across several priority areas such as food and drug law and regulation, health governance, human rights law, and universal health coverage. A four-year agreement, the partnership affirms a long-standing relationship between the two organizations. 

“I am proud of the fact that we are the only WHO collaborating center on global health law,” said Lawrence Gostin. “We have partnered with WHO and the United Nations on major epidemics ranging from influenza to Ebola to Zika.”

Rüdiger Krech, director of health systems innovation to the office of the assistant director general of WHO, celebrated the impact that the O’Neill Institute has had on the intersection of law and global health. 

“The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University has made a substantial contribution to global health and has become a trusted partner in health law around the world,” said Krech. “A WHO collaborating center is our expression of the closest representation of working together. It is a sign of trust.”

A MULTILATERAL APPROACH

The hour-long panel discussion covered a number of global health topics, from health security and infectious diseases to the challenges of distributing safe and affordable vaccines all around the globe. The panelists offered their insights on each of these issues, and suggested strategies on next steps moving forward. 

“What does it mean to talk about health systems, and what does it take to build health systems around the world?” asked Dr. Margaret Ann Hamburg, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “It is critically important that we engage in a science-driven, evidence-based approach to public health.” 

The panel also discussed the challenges and usefulness of cross-sectoral and multilateral collaboration. 

“We’ve recognized that if we are going to tackle global health, we have to do it multilaterally,” said Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, former coordinator for threat reduction programs in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation. “The government cannot do it by itself.” 

While certain roles and responsibilities of different institutions were debated by panelists, the importance of addressing law in the context of global health was universally agreed upon. 

In his opening remarks, Krech noted, “a powerful but sometimes under-utilized tool for safe-guarding and promoting the public’s health and safety is law.” Hamburg agreed: “recognizing law is a critical element in the things that we do and the actions that we take. Now is the time to make sure we are making a difference.”

The O’Neill Institute will be conducting a number of events to commemorate its tenth anniversary. In addition to this panel, there will be a global health law symposium in April 2018 at the Law Center.